We are living in historic times. That’s what we keep hearing. Well, there are many moments these days when I would prefer to live in some other historic times, and that is when I turn to the expansive library of historical mystery audiobooks. Recent releases provide us with the choice of many different time periods and locations.
With BONNIE by Christina Schwartz, read by Candace Thaxton, we are transported to Depression-era Texas to witness the origins of the famous criminal partnership of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Focused mainly on Bonnie, pictured above, this fictionalized account of the real-life outlaw will provide listeners with a tantalizing window into the background and motivations of the infamous couple romanticized by the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.
Bridging the American West and London, FELICITY CARROL AND THE MURDEROUS MENACE, by Patricia Marcantonio, challenges British-born narrator Lillian Rachel to perform accents from posh London to Montana. The search for Jack the Ripper provides the motivation for Detective Felicity Carrol to follow leads all the way to the western United States. A thrilling journey with lots of twists and turns.
Another series inspired by Jack the Ripper is Laura Joh Rowland’s “A Victorian Mystery” series featuring photographer Sarah Bain and her unusual crew of crime-solvers. We hang out in Victorian London in THE HANGMAN’S SECRET. Alex Tregear has provided the narration for all of the books in this series. Rowland’s detailed and vivid descriptions convey the seedier side of London in the late 1800s. The most recent book in this series, also narrated by Tregear, THE WOMEN IN THE VEIL, was released this summer.
Staying with narrator Alex Tregear and moving to the 1930s, listeners can experience the sophisticated world of amateur sleuth Kitty Underhay in Helena Dixon’s MURDER AT THE PLAYHOUSE. This one is a cozy that leans toward romance. Tregear is masterful at voicing the many characters and conveying the atmospheric settings.
You may fancy going back in time in London to the early 1700s with THE CABINETS OF BARNABY MAYNE, by Elsa Hart, read by Barrie Kreinik. It is a time when men of means spent their time and fortunes collecting oddities from around the world. Two women turn their able skills to investigate the murder of their host, Barnaby Mayne. Narrator Kreinik very effectively voices the many male and female characters who go in and out of the household where the murder takes place.
And now, for something completely different: PRIMA FACIE, by Ruth Downie, read by Golden Voice Simon Vance. This novella is book 8.5 in the “Roman Empire” series and features returning main characters Ruso, formerly a medic in the Roman army and now a sleuth, and his British wife Tilla. Simon Vance has been the voice of the series and as usual is masterful in capturing the characters and the times they live in.
I am actually proud of myself—I’ve shared with you a sampling of historical mystery audiobooks without delving into some of my favorites, which take place during WWI and WWII. Those I will save for Veteran’s Day.
Photo: A snapshot of criminal Bonnie Parker smoking a cigar, seized by police 4-13-1933.
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